Semi-Current reader, we need to talk. And no, this isn’t at all to say that you’ve done anything wrong here. In fact, if there is any reason at all to throw any sort of blame around here, it should be on me.
I founded this website more than four years ago with the idea of giving you up-to-date information on the latest gadgets that matter. The site has been through many ups and downs, but for the greater part of the past year and a half, it’s been in the worst shape of its life.
The site has changed web hosts over half a dozen times now, much of the original content have been taken off their pages, and the direction I’m headed here hasn’t been exactly clear for quite some time. So I’ve decided to write this in order to get my head straight.
The site is broken, and I want to fix it.
The Original Plan
The original plan for Semi-Current was first set in motion in 2013, when I decided to start it prior to leaving my writer position at Android Authority. As the tagline goes, the site was supposed to cover “the latest in tech, more or less.” I figured that there was already too much tech news going around, so people should only tune in to yet another channel only if it carefully curated its posts to only include the stuff that’s most important.
Also, when I first started the website, I didn’t have a proper smartphone, and I only relied on an old Lenovo ThinkPad T60 running Windows 7 to write posts. Back then, I didn’t have connections to any of the local PR agencies or tech companies, except for a woman named Irish Santos-Lorenzo, whom I met many years back as part of my work on an older tech blog called Electronic Pulp. She was affiliated with Acer Philippines, and through her, I secured an Acer Liquid E1 smartphone, and that became the subject of the first ever Semi-Current review. You can read it here.
A couple of months later, I had noticed an opportunity to review a fairly new Android phone produced by a local phone company. It was quite a serendipitous thing: I was just checking to see what kind of stuff I could buy with my disposable income at the time, and I happened to notice that the specs on a just-released local smartphone seemed reasonable and potentially impressive. So I went to the nearest mall the very next day, money in hand, to buy a brand new unit of my own.
Keep in mind, I didn’t have a smartphone at the time, so I was really hedging my bets that it would be a good purchase. I had used my years of experience and knowledge to determine that it would be, and fortunately for me, I wasn’t wrong. It turned out to be one of the most popular local smartphones that year, and I was even one of the first ones to review it. It was the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0, and as its popularity grew, so too did the website.
The Crucial Pivot
When I wrote the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 review, I was feeling a lot of frustration with the popular local tech bloggers at the time. My main motivation for writing that review was the thought that there was finally a great Android smartphone made by a local company, and it seemed that no one had acknowledged it yet. After writing the review, I went to a couple of online forums to sort of promote it, kind of half-heartedly. But even with such little effort, my review blew up. It received tens of thousands of views over the next couple of months, and it got more than 100 comments on it.
That post single-handedly put Semi-Current on the map.
It didn’t take long for Cherry Mobile itself to notice the popularity of my post. And they reached out to me through email to send me units for me to review. I went through one phone after another after another. And before I knew it, Semi-Current had become one of the top local sources for not only Cherry Mobile news and reviews, but also info on other gadgets and electronics.
I really have to thank Cherry Mobile here, because back then, even though I had already been writing on a couple of international tech blogs, covering important tech news stories, and even breaking some high-profile and hotly covered scoops, I was a complete nobody in the local tech blogging scene. Maybe a few people heard of my name here or there, but I had no friends, no affiliations. I was just some guy with a blog and I did things on my own. Cherry Mobile helped open the door for me to exploring all the possibilities in the tech blogging space here in the Philippines.
By August 2014, after about a year of non-stop tech blogging and reviewing phones and other gadgets, I had finally proven that there was a place for Semi-Current in the avid tech news reader’s daily reading list. Apart from reviews and daily news stories, I also produced a number of how-to articles, which were received quite well by readers and even mere passers-by. All told, Semi-Current was well on its way to becoming the top local tech blog in the country.
That was when things started to go downhill for me.
All The Wrong Things
For one reason or another, I started getting close with other local tech bloggers. Of course, it isn’t unusual to get acquainted and eventually more familiar with people with whom you spend a lot of time as part of your job. As I covered more and more local tech events, I spent more and more time with certain individuals. A lot of it was just for small talk and other random non-sense, but then I started receiving offers of work.
When I say work here, I mean collaboration. I was slow, but I was producing high-quality work here at Semi-Current. I started making money from advertisements and sponsorship deals. I didn’t need to work with, much less for, anyone.
And yet I decided to. Some time either in 2014 or 2015, the man in charge of Gadget Pilipinas, Gian Viterbo, gave me a low-ball offer to write for him. The low-ball part of it was no big deal for me at the time because I didn’t need money, and in my mind I was doing it to help him. In the end, it all just came crashing down on me.
Back then Gadget Pilipinas was known as one of the bigger local tech blogs. It had a good reach despite its garbage content, because the owner was a friendly, charming guy who was in on all the local tech companies. He was a businessman. And I was just a naive child with a sincere wish to help him get to the top.
I should point out here that when I first started working at Gadget Pilipinas, it was with the thought that I could help propel its status to even greater heights and fully topple the biggest local tech blogs, which I believed to be even worse than it. Semi-Current at the time actually had higher traffic stats than Gadget Pilipinas, and I stupidly revealed this to other local tech bloggers while Gian was not around. I have no doubt in my mind that this little bit of arrogance from me probably reached him at some point, helping to paint me in an even worse light than I already was–I was a competitor and a hot talent in the local tech blogging scene.
Whether he admits it or not, there is an ulterior motive in his hiring me to work on his site, while I end up letting the content on my own site stagnate, all for little pay and not-so-rewarding perks.
When I started working with Gian at Gadget Pilipinas, I viewed it as a partnership among peers, but in a few months I started to realize that he actually viewed me as a lackey, kind of like a goose that laid golden eggs for pretty much nothing. This was most apparent when he started sending me to cover useless press briefings about stuff that won’t affect your lives that much, like the one about PLDT and its latest Internet box. I spent maybe 6 hours on the road that day and was able to write one story. I felt insulted and angry, so I decided to leave. Gian and I sort of had a falling out but remained friends, though we no longer spoke with each other. Today, he’s more successful than he’s ever been, and farther from me than he has ever been before.
Shortly after this whole ordeal, I “teamed up” with a bunch of low-level tech bloggers to produce content for a new YouTube tech channel. I came up with the name as an homage to the tech magazine that inspired me to write about tech, T3. We called our channel T4 Gadget Show. There were four of us in total, but only two of us did most of the work. Our first few episodes were recorded using my DSLR camera, my USB condenser mic, my Windows tablet, and with me editing and rendering the final product.
Ever since we started shooting, one of my partners in the channel, Raffy Pedrajita of Tech Patrol News, had been very vocal–to me–about the non-participation of the other two in the group. And when this individual went with me to Taiwan to cover the launch of the Asus ZenFone 3, he kicked his complaining up a notch.
Of course, I could only agree to what he was saying, and at some point during our trip we decided to shoot a video by ourselves inviting a guest host to talk with us. We finished the video, he edited it, and even uploaded it to YouTube before we left for the flight back home. Well, right after we landed, I ended up publishing our video on YouTube, which resulted in him blowing up on me. I said it was an accident on my part, which he wouldn’t accept. And he pointed his finger at me, saying that I had all these frustrations on our two other partners for their lack of effort and other such things, revealing to them criticisms that I had entrusted to him and told him in confidence.
After all his complaints and all his efforts in putting the video together with me, he would just wash his hands clean as soon as things came to a head. I decided to leave this group and spoke nothing of it, and in an ultimate move of total disrespect, they kept the channel alive, eventually onboarding another member, as if nothing happened. This highly-talented group of precocious individuals couldn’t even come up with a new name of their own so to this day, the channel exists under the original name that I came up with. I’ve met all of them since I left at various events, and we act like things are hunky dory. But I still find them pathetic. I can only hope they at least acknowledge their own shortcomings, even privately, as they certainly aren’t doing that out in the open.
Throughout all this, I also met a few people with whom I had positive experiences. JM Balicano of Mobile Tech Pinoy and Bon Talampas of Taragis.com were two individuals who I really wanted to work with. After a quick discussion, we decided to form a new tech blog that would focus entirely on Cherry Mobile news. Unfortunately, nothing came of it due to issues in my personal life at the time.
I also became close with PJ Icogo, owner and editor at GizGuide.com. This guy was suffering the same treatment I was right around the time that he was starting to gain prominence. Older, more established bloggers would look down on him, and I sometimes found him in isolation from the usual clique that involved the more popular bloggers back then. Right now, his site is probably in the top 3 in the Philippines, alongside Unbox and Yugatech. Anjie delos Reyes of Teknogadyet also deserves a shout, and I believe he’s comfortably in the top 4 tech blogs right now, and he rightly deserves it.
Thinking back on it now, there were so many people that I admired in their dedication and work ethic that I should have worked with, but ultimately didn’t, mainly because I was lured by the prospect with working with what I perceived to be bigger names. There’s Mark Marcelo of Filipino Tech Addict, who was a relative newcomer and mostly an outsider to the local scene when he began. I even remember catching a lot of breaking news stories on his free WordPress site before he decided to get his own .com domain. There’s RonNotTheDJ, GeeksChickSten, and a few other guys I can’t remember. Instead I “partnered” with backstabbers and users who only had their own best interests in their minds, and threw me under the bus at the first opportunity they got.
So Who’s To Blame?
In the end, the blame ultimately rests on me. I was an adult that couldn’t say no. I was new to the environment. I was too trusting and fell prey to my own insecurities and couldn’t overcome my personal issues. So I lost most of what I had built. Now I kind of regret things a little bit.
But again, I want to fix things. So here is my attempt. I am reviving Semi-Current, and since I’m mostly lost on where to begin, I’m going back to its roots.
The mission here is simple: to publish the most important technology news stories of the day as well as some of the latest device reviews found on this side of the planet. I’ve pared down the number of news topics to be covered, mainly because all people really care about these days are smartphones and tablets.
I don’t know, I haven’t really been paying attention for the past three years. I aim to find out over the next few weeks.
In 2016, I got hired to work as a Product Development Manager at Topstrasse Global, Inc., the makers of the local phone company Torque Mobile. I created Arsenal Devices alongside the CEO of the company, and walked away with a ton of insider knowledge that I never would have learned otherwise. It’s mostly useless to me now, but at least it’s something. I’m going to have to share the story of my time there in a separate post, but suffice it to say that you’ll not find a more in-the-know blogger than yours truly in this side of the globe, if I do say so myself.
If you’ve gotten this far in this post, thank you for your dedication and spending a bit of your time to read it. There must be a handful of loyal readers who are still out there, so thanks to you as well.
If you’re a tech company with whom I’ve partnered in the past, allow me to thank you as well for putting your trust in this fledgling publication. These days, all that really matters is page views and followers, so I’ve lost some of my edge. But wouldn’t you know it? I actually have a high follower count and view count as well. And I’m going to push it right back up to the top.
I think I’ve said all that needs to be said for now. Turn your site subscription back on.
Semi-Current is back in business.